WASHINGTON, D.C. – Saying “something needs to be done NOW to help the growing number of uninsured Americans,” Congressman Max Sandlin (D-Marshall) today introduced a measure that would help small businesses provide health insurance for their employees and sponsored two other measures that would help significantly reduce the number of Americans who lack health insurance.
“Today, there are 43 million people without basic health insurance in America, and premiums continue to skyrocket. In Texas, one out of every three workers doesn’t have health insurance. Health insurance premiums have increased almost 50 percent in the last three years – growing four times faster than workers’ earnings last year alone,” said Sandlin, the Blue Dog conservative who represents East Texas in the 1st Congressional District and serves on the House Ways and Means Committee that oversees many aspects of our nation’s healthcare policy.
“But, while healthcare costs continue to rise and small businesses struggle to make their payrolls, virtually nothing has been done to address this issue. That has got to change! Unlike the warmed over proposals advocated by House Republicans our measures would actually reduce the number of uninsured by half – greatly reducing the burden they place on our public health system.”
Congressman Sandlin and his colleagues unveiled their three new bills today as part of Cover the Uninsured week. The measures are designed to provide affordable access to health insurance for three fast-growing, vulnerable segments of the uninsured community: low-income individuals, the near-elderly, and small business employees – including the self-employed. Together, these three bills could help more than half of all uninsured Americans afford health insurance.
The Census Bureau reported that a staggering 43.6 million Americans lacked health insurance in 2002, and, because of today’s difficult economy, that number is rising steadily. Americans are losing their jobs and, as a consequence, health insurance for themselves and their families. Employers are also struggling with the cost of maintaining health insurance as a benefit for their employees.
Noting that “small businesses and the self-employed are having a hard time meeting the growing cost of health insurance,” Congressman Sandlin explained that his legislation, the Small Business Health Insurance Promotion Act, is intended to “help small businesses and the self-employed offer and maintain health insurance as an affordable benefit.” The measure would make small businesses or self-employed individuals eligible for a 50 percent tax credit for four years to defray the cost of health insurance and provide an incentive for businesses not currently offering coverage to do so. Additionally, the bill creates permanent state and national multi-insurer pools to provide comprehensive and affordable health insurance choices to small employers and the self-employed.
The other pieces of legislation unveiled today – the FamilyCare Act and the Medicare Early Access Act – would help provide health insurance to the seven and a half million working parents whose children are eligible for Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program and the three and a half million retirees between the ages of 55 and 64 who, due in part to outsourcing and layoffs, are losing health insurance coverage faster than any other group in the country.
Together, the three measures could help provide health insurance for more than half of the 43 million uninsured Americans and relieve the pressure they place on our overburdened public health system.
“We must lower the number of uninsured in the country. But, with escalating deficits and the economy as it is, we need to focus on proposals that give us the most bang-for-the-buck while giving families access to the health care they need,” Sandlin concluded. “Our bills – the Small Business Health Insurance Promotion Act, the FamilyCare Act, and the Medicare Early Access Act – target our limited resources directly on the largest number of uninsured to help provide them with affordable access to the health insurance they need. ”
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